HITECH Act increases adoption of EHRs in hospitals

The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 was introduced to increase the rate of integration of electronic health records (EHRs). In a recent study, published by Health Affairs, researchers analyze if the bill was able to increase EHR adoption.

EHRs have become an integral part of healthcare, but they often presented problems in installation and implementation when first introduced. The HITECH Act prompted healthcare organizations to implement EHR systems by offering an incentive program to eligible short-term acute care hospitals. This study analyzed EHR adoption in both eligible and ineligible hospitals from before (2008 to 2010) and after (2011 to 2015) of the program to determine the effectiveness in overall EHR implementation.

“The Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health (HITECH) Act of 2009 was an ambitious policy effort to increase the adoption of EHRs,” wrote Julia Adler-Milstein, an associate professor at the University of Michigan and first author of the study. “It was prompted by evidence that the use of EHRs can substantially improve the quality and efficiency of care delivered. And while the act passed with strong bipartisan support, whether it has achieved its primary goal is debated.”

Researchers analyzed data from 2008 to 2015 from the Annual Health Information Technology Supplemental Survey of the American Hospital Association, a total of 4,268 eligible and 851 ineligible hospitals. The study measured whether or not each hospital had implemented basic EHRs in the years before and after the HITECH Act.

Results showed that the annual rate of EHR adoption for eligible hospitals increased from 3.2 percent before the act to 14.2 percent afterward. Ineligible hospitals also saw an increased from 0.1 percent to 3.3 percent. These results show increased EHR adoption was directly correlated to the HITECH Act.